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Note: In preparation for Young & Hungry’s baguette column next week (not this week, as previously reported here), we stopped at Marvelous Market, originally founded in 1990 by Mark Furstenberg, to see how the local institution is faring so many years after Furstenberg was essentially forced to sell his much-beloved bakeries.
The heavy wooden beams and exposed red brick at the Marvelous Market on Dupont Circle give the place the kind of warm, rustic vibe that you want from your neighborhood bakery. The spell, however, is broken the moment you open your mouth and ask one basic question: Do you bake your own breads?
Marvelous doesn’t. It gets daily deliveries from Baguette Republic, which is co-owned by Dahmane Benabane, who worked as executive chef for Marvelous Market for 15 years. The Republic plies this shop —- and every other in the Marvelous chain —- with all manner of product, from pastries to muffins to loaves of various shape and size. Many of them, despite their transit from Northern Virginia, are fresh and delicious.
Tops among them is the chocolate croissant, a bronzed buttery purse of puff pastry filled with a thin strip of rich chocolate and lots of air, which helps to create a false impression of lightness. The baguette is decent example of the breadmaker’s art —- crusty and airy and far superior to that bread wad over at Firehook. The sourdough boule gives you a blast of sour all right —- somewhere just south of old wine —- but its crust has an off-putting texture that I’d place somewhere between plastic and old cardboard.
The truth is, Marvelous Market has strayed far beyond the European breadmaking traditions of its founder, Mark Furstenberg. It has, by its own admission, morphed into something that blends “Panera, Starbucks, Potbelly, Dean & Deluca, and Seven 11 (sic)” under one roof. As such, it can get pretty crowded in the narrow aisle inside the Dupont store, as customers elbow for fruit-juice blends, pre-made sandwiches, pates, cheeses, coffee, hell even pre-cut flowers. The sandwiches, particularly the fresh-as-a-Mediterranean-breeze caprese, are a fine option for those who want a quick lunch without sacrificing their soul (and their arteries) to the practitioners of fast-food sorcery.
But can you ever expect to wrap your mouth around something as deliriously tasty as the sandwiches that Breadline turned out during its Furstenberg heyday? Get real. Marvelous Market figured out long ago that artisan ambitions don’t pay the bills.